Jeffrey R.

Writer, editor, designer, poutine lover



Writing Fiction for Young Adults: Outline Your YA Novel

Project Overview:

J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, John Green, Sherman Alexie—some of the biggest names in fiction these days write for children and young adults. YA fiction covers a variety of genres from the literary realism of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian to the dark, dystopian fantasy of The Hunger Games. YA literature is so compelling that more than a quarter of readers are not teens at all, but rather adults.

If you've ever wanted to write such a story but didn't know where to start, or you started but never got around to finishing, this class is for you. We’ll start by exploring what makes a novel a YA novel and discuss aspects of structure, plot, and pacing and how they help shape your storyline. Next, we'll learn about the three-act structure and the hero's journey as popularized by historian Joseph Campbell, and we'll use them to identify the key turning points in our own story ideas and create dramatic tension. From there, we'll be ready to turn our ideas into an outline that will guide us through our writing.


For your class project you will create an outline for a YA novel of your own invention. This can be written following either the three-act structure or Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. Your outline should introduce us to:

  1. Your main character/protagonist
  2. Your main character's conflict
  3. The antagonist in your story
  4. The key turning points in the narrative that raise the stakes and build dramatic tension
  5. A dramatic climax, where to protagonist and antagonist face off in a final showdown, followed by a satisfying resolution

Don't hesitate to share an early draft of your outline in the project gallery. You can update it over time, ask questions, and get and receive feedback from fellow students. From there you'll be well on your way to bringing your story to life.

Class outline (a work in progress):

Introduction clip:

Published class:


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